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The Best Crime Fiction by Writers of Color: A Reading List

I can be unbearably self-aware in my choices when it comes to both what I'm reading and what I'm writing. Recently though, I've allowed myself to actually engage with what I enjoy, which has always been crime fiction.


This left me with a tiny bit of a problem: everyone I'd read so far, and was planning to dive into again, happened to be a white man. There is nothing wrong with white men, of course. This is point most people ignore when calls for representation and diversity are made. We don't want less white men, we just want more everything else too. 


With that in mind, I asked the friendly people of Twitter (I swear some of them are friendly) to point me in the direction of crime authors of color, and the list below is what came of that. 


I have ordered a couple but haven't read them yet, but figured this was a good place to keep the list, and maybe help others find books they might not know they're looking for yet. 

Eyes Full of Empty

The son of an Algerian immigrant, Idir is a disappointment to his doctor father. Torn between his wealthy school friends and his neighborhood pals, who range from petty thieves to professional criminals, Idir operates easily between worlds, and yet is at home nowhere. Without much effort, Idir becomes one of the Parisian upper crust's most sought-out private dicks, thanks to his understanding of the needs of his privileged clients. The only thing standing in his way is Idir's unfortunate habit of crying uncontrollably. Things change when Oscar Crumley, a wealthy media scion that Idir knew at university, reappears in Idir's life, hiring him to find his missing younger half-brother, Thibaut. Idir assumes it is an open and shut case. But when Idir discovers that Thibaut was hiding his homosexuality from his conservative family, his disappearance takes on sinister connotations. Distracted by his intense affair with the wife of a wealthy friend, Idir ultimately becomes embroiled in a war of lies and corruption between two of France's most powerful media conglomerates. Inspired by Chandler and the American greats, Guez uses the familiar tropes of noir to create an entirely new language.

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Mother of 1084

Mahasweta Devi is one of India's foremost literary figures. Mother of 1084 is one of her most widely read works, written during the height of the Naxalite agitation - a militant communist uprising that was brutally repressed by the Indian government and led to the widespread murder of young rebels across Bengal. This novel focuses on the trauma of a mother who awakens one morning to the shattering news that her son is lying dead in the morgue and her struggle to understand his decision to be a Naxalite. Breast Stories is a collection of short fiction about the breast as more than a symbol of beauty, eroticism, or motherhood, but as a harsh ndictment of an exploitative social system and a weapon of resistance. At a time when violence towards women in India has escalated exponentially, Devi exposes the inherently vicious systems in Indian society. Old Women tells the touching, poignant tales of two timeworn women - Dulali, a widow since childhood, who is now an old woman preoccupied only with day-to-day survival, and Andi, who loses her eyesight due to a combination of poverty, societal indifference, and government apathy. All three volumes, written in Devi's hard-hitting yet sensitive prose, are significant milestones in India's feminist literary landscape.

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The Sympathizer

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

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At Night We Walk in Circles

FINALIST FOR THE PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FOR FICTIONLONGLISTED FOR THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZEA breathtaking, suspenseful search for the truth of one man's spectacular downfall, from Daniel Alarcon, one of the New Yorker's 20 best writers under 40.Nelson's life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country and moved to the United States, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can't seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson's hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theatre troupe Diciembre. And that's when the real trouble begins.The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he's never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.Nelson's fate is slowly revealed through the investigation of the narrator, a young man obsessed with Nelson's story-and perhaps closer to it than he lets on. In sharp, vivid, and beautiful prose, Alarcon delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.

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City of Jackals

FINDING REFUGE CAN BE DEADLY. More trouble on the streets of Cairo in a gripping new investigation for `one of crime fiction's most interesting and sympathetic detectives' (The Times) A severed head washes up on the banks of the Nile. The police turn a blind eye. It is just another victim in a series of ritual killings of refugees. Distracted from his hunt for a missing boy, Makana feels the pull of his Sudanese past and is impelled to seek justice for the murdered emigrants. In the dark heart of Cairo, Makana soon discovers the two cases may be connected in dangerous and unexpected ways.

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Arab Jazz

Kosher sushi, kebabs, a second-hand bookshop and a bar: the 19th arrondissement in Paris is a cosmopolitan district where multicultural citizens live, love and worship alongside one another. This peace is shattered when Ahmed Taroudant's melancholy daydreams are interrupted by the blood dripping from his upstairs neighbour's brutally mutilated corpse. The violent murder of Laura Vignole, and the pork joint placed next to her, set imaginations ablaze across the neighbourhood, and Ahmed finds himself the prime suspect. But detectives Rachel Kupferstein and Jean Hamelot are not short of other leads. What is the connection between a disbanded hip-hop group and the fiery extremist preachers that jostle for attention in the streets? And what is the mysterious blue pill that is taking the district by storm? Karim Miske demonstrates a sharp eye for character and an evocative sense of place, moving seamlessly between the sensual streets of Paris and the synagogues of New York to reveal the truth behind a horrifying crime.

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Murder in Montego Bay

In Montego Bay, Jamaica, privileged Chinese-Jamaican brothers Lester and Carter Chin Ellis have enjoyed a sheltered life as the heirs to the iced desserts empire Chinchillerz. One fateful night, following a fiery encounter with local law enforcement the brothers are taken to Pelican Walk Police Station, where Lester is detained for drunk driving, while Carter is released without charge. Within minutes of leaving the station Carter is shot dead in a drive-by, while his brother Lester is brutally assaulted in his cell. Discredited Detective Raythan Preddy is put in charge of the case and is forced to accept the assistance of Detective Sean Harris, a Scottish lawman seconded to Jamaica. With his superiors watching his every move and the Chin Ellis family interfering with the investigation, Preddy is determined to catch the killer and save his career.

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The Bone Readers

Secrets can be buried, but bones can speak... When Michael (Digger) Digson is recruited into DS Chilman's new plain clothes squad in the small Caribbean island of Camaho he brings his own mission to discover who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother in a political demonstration. Sent to London to train in forensics, Digger becomes enmeshed in Chilman's obsession with a cold case - the disappearance of a young man whose mother is sure has been murdered.

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Black Water Rising

Black Water Rising was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. On a dark night, out on the Houston bayou to celebrate his wife's birthday, Jay Porter hears a scream. Saving a distressed woman from drowning, he opens a Pandora's Box. Not the lawyer he set out to be, Jay long ago made peace with his radical youth, tucked away his darkest sins and resolved to make a fresh start. His impulsive act out on the bayou is heroic, but it puts Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him is practice, his family and even his life. Before he can untangle the mystery that stretches to the highest reaches of corporate power, he must confront the demons of his past. A provocative thriller with an exhilarating climax, Black Water Rising marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.

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British-Lebanese author and media entrepreneur. My writing has appeared in The Guardian, GQ and Brownbook amongst other places. Author of Our Man in Beirut (2012) and currently working on a ... Show More